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This day,

waking up full to the weakling, power derived off forty hours without food

and solids seem demonic, a chore mere by my choosing.

Enduring that discomfort –

– of needing solids

– of loathing solids

all through class

and passing a cursory homegrown beat between my lips

the purepinkness of its sugars embalming my insides and brightening the eyes.

Thoughtless tasks as bliss. Mindless maneuvers, torrid living in calm

my breasts swing roundly in this shirt, kissed by its comforts

and the environment that welcomes their shape

without leering upon them.

Just are. Even when dancing,

they just are

no one cares the more.

after work,

remembering shannon never got mine response

and catching her, six hours different, in some confuzzling conversation.

I realized my head is nowhere

too many places all at once

spirit buried more than usual,

more than its been of late

the result is a feeling of crass apathetic disillusionment

just a dangling, as per while.

I am not clear.

I can’t decide.

He is not clear.

wants so indecipherable

going through the motions –

thanking god now for the motions that keep me

on

in some sense at least.

And here,

such isolation. Surrounded by so many lovelies and all this interest in energy

yet feeling as divisible skins, moving and pursuing – all individuals getting it on their own terms.

How can I stop thinking of him?

Even if we truly stopped, this dangling would remain until resolution came before

ending this cyclic notion of halfness

in kundalini, my mind wont shh

the clarity is failing

swallowing back tears

the swelling of my heart occurs, but not expansive.

“Mother,” flash of my mother, then breath as my mother, than pushing it back rather than working it through. No welcome trance today, mercury.

And coming home, the sky is indigo.

the puppy’s learned a new trick.

my juice is plush.

Davey calls

he comes toting ingredients for “vegan ice cream,” including his own blender

and,

telling me he’s just been massaged by a friend using his own urine,

he makes a blackberry-melon-almond-flax-apple-ginger-banana

treat.

and, scooping it spoonwise,

dripping it down our glass and our bows

his blackberries are on my teeth

and in my soul.

for once, this day,

i smile.

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SwannaNoWhere

It is time I told of Warren Wilson College, the place I’ve been residing for the last 2+ months. This is a largely undergraduate college (there is one renowned graduate program in creative writing) with three branches to its education system: Academics, Work, and Service. In addition to study with the goal of attaining a “degree” (or pedigree, if you are to speak about it honestly), you are required to work for at least 15 hours a week on and for the campus, as well as complete 100 hours of community service before you graduate.

The campus, nestled softly in the cradle of God formed by the Appalachian mountains surrounding, is extremely well-contained. Before I arrived, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to last here without bringing a car – my need to escape had prior seemed prevalent. A thirst wanting quench. But now my car sits in the lot for days on end without budging. Full weeks at times, so’s that I forget where it is or that it exists altogether. (this isn’t to diminish its importance, however. surely if it weren’t here I’d be craving escape all the time) No, everything I need is right. here.

I live in essentially a four bedroom, two bath apartment (called a “suite”) complete with kitchen and living room. Housing is coed, including shared rooms. Couples room together here and no one bats an eye. Front doors to suites remain largely unlocked. None of the doors in our suite are ever locked. There is no regimen and are no regulations for having visitors. When I need something, like a pot for cooking, I simply walk across the deck to the neighboring apartment and take what I need, returning it when I am finished. I’ve had friends use things like my freezer, juicer, and yoga mat at their discretion, only obtaining my general permission ahead of time. Below my bedroom is a meditation room, which contains cushions, a shrine table, an electric kettle, a couple of small statues, a crystal rock lamp, and two bookshelves packed full of material on spirituality and meditation. A friend of mine who lives across the way plays a balafon, which is a Guinean type of marimba that employs gourds as resonators. I hear the dancing sounds of his mallets striking smoothed wood each night just after ten.

Out back behind my living space are woods and hiking trails. I drink snow and rain from heavy branches out there. I wander til I reach Christmas Tree Hill, once a pasture for a Christmas tree farm, the specimens now overgrown and reaching high into the heavens in surreal lines on a perfect grid. Their needles bathe the earth beneath them, making it a blanket of softness and strength. I rub my hands in dirt on those trails. Rub them in dirt, then press the dirt into the grooves of bark to see how the designs lay. Look at how the dirt I’ve pressed into the bark has lodged itself in the lifelines of my hands, a perfect mirror of phenomenon. Filthy clean designs, the way mud never has made me feel like I needed a bath. Rather, it makes me feel like I more exist. And the more I play in dirt and hang with trees the less bathing is a necessity.

I bathe about once a week. I wash my hair about that often if not less. I no longer comb or brush it except for with my fingers. I condition it and treat my dry scalp with olive and coconut oils. I wear and sleep in the same outfit for days upon days. Folks don’t seem to notice. The smell of me seems to attract rather than deflect them.

This being my first semester, I was not provided with a choice as to which work crew I could be on. I have extensive experience in food service and so I was assigned to Dining Hall Crew. There are two major dining choices on campus: Gladfelter and Cowpie. I work upstairs in Gladfelter, which is the more traditional dining hall suited for omnivores. The food is typical and mass-produced. There is a salad bar, a beans/rice/cooked vegetables bar, and the main entree as well as cereals, breads, peanut butter, and the like. There is no uniform for working on this crew (if any crew). There are little rules besides the general showing up on time, doing work, and remaining until the end of your shift or until all the work is done. I do tasks ranging from setting up for meals to washing dishes to prepping with cooks to stocking to wiping tables and mopping. The interesting thing about the work program is that, essentially, all of the students serve one another. In my first week, I was taken by the fact that I was washing dishes for the same girl who helped me in the library just an hour earlier that day. One result of this is a quick and relatively stable sense of community. Another result is that a certain am0unt of respect is cultivated for the tasks that are done for you. Sure, some people who eat in the dining hall are inconsiderate or spaced out and there are dishes left behind at every shift. But, overwhelmingly, students make sure to acknowledge the employees and more or less genuinely thank them for their efforts.

I love working for school. It provides me with a sense of belonging and gives some needed structure to my time. Most days I’d rather skip class than skip a work shift. Plus, working with folks really establishes a pretty clear relationship. I definitely feel closer with the people I work with every week than I do many of the folks in my classes, even when I see them about the same amount. There is something about working alongside someone that creates an important understanding and affection.

I came here in search of real community. And I’m not sure what I’ve found. Surely, out of 900 students, I know only a mere fraction of the humans here. But familiar faces abound and there are a good portion of folks that make sure to stop and connect with me as we cross paths. At first I was frustrated because I felt that I wasn’t establishing deep connections with anyone (except for a rare couple I met at orientation), despite efforts through meaningful conversation. I felt that I was spending time with folks without necessarily becoming any closer with them emotionally. It seemed to me as though everyone was more interested in existing next to one another peacefully, maintaining their individual lives without necessarily risking anything or going out of their way to become close. I was baffled as to how friends were to be made in this setting. After all, my whole life my friends had rather been made for me. My friends were the people who were most like me in a world full of ‘others.’ It was easy – I was attracted to people who looked like me, thought like me, liked the same things I did and those people were attracted to me. How am I supposed to make friends here, where there are so many like-minded individuals?

For the most part, everyone is friendly and even, potentially, friends. Most people speak to one another not only with respect and congeniality, but with a sort of recognition (familiarity?) as well. As if we’re neighbors. On the same page. There is an automatic open-ness I never found in the northeast. And more than that, very little judgment seems to go on here.

I’d like to speak more about Cowpie, social relations, and the environment I’ve begun to immerse myself in. I want to talk about baking bread, finding snakes on the trail, the free store, the wealth of trust, my issues with academic structure and my brainstorm about the possibility of free guided self-learning… I want to talk about dancing in the grass, letting my body hair grow, and taking refuge in a more peaceful enclave of society. I want to talk about what it means to be isolationist versus what “the world” really is. Alternative lifestyles. How nature feeds me. The bounty of health and energy I’ve felt since I arrived in these mountains. Hand-making things like toothpaste. I want to talk about how sometimes I wake up in the morning wondering what the point is and what the solutions to that may be.

I want to talk about how I feel so disconnected from my life thusfar, as if it’s all been an elaborate dreamstate. When I think about memories, I recall events almost from a third-person perspective. And try as I may, I can only recall feeling certain emotions. I am unable to re-feel them to my core or even consider them relevant.

The incredible beauty of the natural world and human lives as mere extensions of that. Ferns as fractals. Humans as fractals. Parts as wholes as parts, inseparable. The self as no self as all self and so on.

Homesteading. Growing food. being not doing. Making. Love.

of course, there is always more

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Life is a stream. It is wind. Life is a bonfire and the slow erosion of mountains over time. Nature, and life itself, is characterized by seasons; the ever-present flow of change. I have heard a quote that states: change is the only constant in life. Thus, what seems a simple and straightforward question about personal identity is a bit more complex than one may prefer to believe for simplicity’s sake. Who am I? And just as important, how do I know that? What elements of identity are significant to me? What defines my “self”?

Five years ago I would have had no problem identifying myself to others via specific characteristics, values, and traits. I would have told them I was female, and that I lived in Mount Airy, Maryland. I attended Linganore High School as a student interested in theater arts and the French language. I would have pointed to my age as a self-descriptor and said that I had a younger brother and two heterosexual parents who remained married. I had lived in the same house all my life, a house on two acres surrounded by gardens and flanked by forest. I certainly would have referred to myself as a social butterfly. A good student in school. An organized, driven, and thoughtful person with a strong sense of individuality. I kept journals, I made art, and I had an adventurous spirit, lively humor, and a whole lot of talent. I was a successful actress, singer, dancer, leader, and I loved to be the center of attention.

As I write this, I am reminded that throughout school I have completed many different assignments that asked me questions similar to those this assignment is inquiring about. Even in elementary school, I was encouraged to know and name my favorite color, my favorite food, the type of things I liked to do. It is only recently that I have begun to question the meaning and purpose of this. I can remember sitting in a circle in kindergarten and having everyone proclaim what their favorite color was. And in doing so, both the divisive and uniting potential of such an exercise were revealed. I remember feeling sometimes a sense of apprehension before saying my favorite color. What if nobody else liked the color I liked? Some children were too shy to say anything at all. Others simply repeated the names of the color their best friend embraced. Some believed they were best friends with a person solely because they shared affection for the color pink, while others recognized that if some people enjoyed the same color that they did, they had something in common despite some other differences. And there were expectations regarding what color we chose. A kindergarten-aged boy never said ‘pink’ unless he was joking. If I had said ‘brown’ was my favorite, no one would have taken me seriously. That was a weird color to like. Why like brown when there were better colors like green and blue and purple to choose from? Proclaiming a favorite color in kindergarten was, essentially, declaring something about your identity. Talking about your own perception of who you were.

I’ve been asked this question, about my favorite color, so many times throughout my life. And sometimes my favorite color would change, along with my choice of favorite food and even the activities I most liked to do. What did this mean, if my favorite color changed? Did my identity change along with that? Did something change about who I am? No longer could I identify as someone who loved red. No, now the color I loved was a very specific and soothing lilac-like shade of purple. And that love for purple became a definitive part of my sense of identity. I remember when I was in middle school, overhearing someone say, “anyone who likes purple is a fruit. Did you know that? Purple’s a gay color.” At the time, I wondered about the truth of that. I wondered if, perhaps, I were unknowingly gay. And what did that mean about my identity, if I were indeed gay? Hearing that statement made me question the color I was using to define myself. Indeed, it went deeper than that: it made me question my very self.

Today if one is to ask me, as this assignment does, about what makes me me, I am much more careful about my answer, because ‘identity’ is so often confused with ‘self.’ I am no longer convinced that living in a certain region or town or house or apartment makes me who I am as a person. I am not convinced that my race defines who I am, nor my job, nor the type of food that I eat. Yes, I am a white female from upper-middle class semi-rural America. I often work as a waitress and perform community service. I maintain a vegetarian/vegan diet. However, these are not things that make me who I am. These things speak not to my self – they are merely experiences that inform my material life. This is an incredibly important distinction that far too often gets completely overlooked. When we get caught up in drawing from our experience to denote our identity, not only is it often socially divisive (or even falsely socially uniting), I would argue that it becomes harder to access your true self. In other words, clinging to certain aspects and characteristics we so often use to talk about who we are actually prevents us from seeing and understanding who we essentially are. Defining our identity, which describes our physical/intellectual/material self may be a threat to our true self, the force that happily wishes to guide our life according to the synergies of the universe.

I realize that this assignment is not necessarily meant to be used to delve into such discussion. But in attempting to write about my identity, I only come up with a list of events and aspects and characteristics of things that seem quite far removed from my self. How can I identify as a white girl, or a hippie, or a coffee shop haunter when all of those random attributes work to reduce the vastness of who I actually am? Perhaps I am to write that I identify as a woman, or a student, or a traveler. It is important that I am a woman, because feminine energy is surely a part of my self. And it is important that I am a student and traveler, but not a student of Warren Wilson College, and not merely a traveler between states or continents. I am rather a student and traveler of life: ever-learning, ever-growing, ever-changing with the flow of the stream, and in all good hope – ascending to higher planes of self, never to be restricted by some arbitrary traits or definitions of what that is.

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